MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer received one more pitch as catcher for the Twins, and Minnesota likely said goodbye to the longtime face of its franchise during an emotional 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
The 35-year-old Mauer was playing the final game of an eight-year, $184 million contract. He doubled into the left-center gap with a line drive of Juan Minaya in his final at-bat.
The 2009 AL MVP then made a surprise appearance behind the plate in the ninth, his first time catching in a game since Aug. 19, 2013. He caught one pitch from Matt Belisle, then walked off to a final standing ovation and was replaced by Chris Gimenez.
Mauer is a three-time AL batting champ and six-time All-Star over 15 major league seasons, all with Minnesota. A three-sport star from St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall High School, Mauer was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft and made his debut with the Twins in 2004.
Max Kepler and Jake Cave homered for the Twins, and reliever Andrew Vasquez (1-0) earned the victory for the Twins with one perfect inning of relief. Trevor May replaced Belisle and got three straight outs with the tying run on second in the ninth to earn his third save.
The White Sox lost their 100th game of the year, the first time they’ve done so since 1970. Meanwhile, the Twins won their sixth straight game to end the season, giving them 78 victories — seven fewer than last year, when they were the AL’s second wild card.
Dylan Covey (5-14) gave up five runs over six innings.
Kepler hit a two-run home, his 20th of the season, onto the plaza in right field in the sixth.
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada struck out once, giving him a major league-leading 217. That’s just six behind the record of 223, set by Mark Reynolds of the Rockies in 2009.
The day was filled with memorable moments for Mauer, who started at first base and batted leadoff. For Sunday home games, each Twins player is joined at his position by a young fan for the national anthem. On Sunday, Mauer’s 5-year-old twin daughters, Emily and Maren, surprised him by running out to meet him at first base.
The crowd of 30,144 gave Mauer an extended standing ovation before his first at-bat. He then shook hands with umpire Jim Reynolds and White Sox catcher Wellington Castillo before facing Covey.
BY THE NUMBERS
If Mauer retires after this season, he will finish second in Twins history in games played, third in runs scored, second in hits, first in doubles, and second in walks. He broke the Twins’ career record for times on base earlier in the homestand.